Found in Yonkers Logo

Article-a-Day #18: The Black Scholar-“Outcasts and Indigent Sons of Africa”: New York’s Nineteenth Century Chefs, Caterers, and Restauranteurs

One such narrative surrounds the resort town of Saratoga Springs, New York, home to African American residents who were largely hotel service people in the early to mid 1800s, working in the capacity of chefs, cooks, waiters, and maids. Black musicians were employed at the hotels as well. While serenaded by Francis (Frank) Johnson’s very own music compositions at Congress Hall Hotel and United States Hotel in Saratoga Springs, you could experience wonderful dining treasures supplied by Mrs. Anne Northup. She and her husband Solomon Northup, who became a familiar name in African American history, were year round residents and both worked at the United States Hotel, which opened in 1824.

Having garnered a reputation as an outstanding cook, Anne Northup had been hired to take charge of the “culinary department” at Sherrill’s Coffee House in Sandy Hill, twenty miles away. In the latter part of March, 1841, on one of her days there, her husband Solomon was approached on the street by two slave dealers pretending to be interested in hiring him as a violinist to play for a circus. Solomon Northup, a free African, was drugged, kidnapped, and sold into slavery – a common occurrence in America. His riveting narrative, Twelve Years A Slave, published in 1853, chronicles his life and some of the lives of Africans with whom he suffered, on plantations in Louisiana. After Mr. Northup’s rescue, he returned to his family at Glen Falls, in Warren County, where his wife was in charge of the kitchen at the Carpenter’s Hotel.